GAINESVILLE -- In case you didn't know, ESPN's SportsCenter is putting together a "Mount Rushmore of Sports" for every state in the union, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. CLICK ME! It's a good idea and a great conversation piece. So, naturally, let's discuss it.
Four sports figures represent each state. It seems to me that a person (or horse) should only represent one state, but a few sports icons represent several states. No big deal, I guess. Standing atop Florida's Mount Rushmore are Don Shula, Dan Marino, Bobby Bowden and Tim Tebow. Tebow, by the way, is the youngest sports icon of any state. Michael Phelps of Baltimore, Md., is 23 years old. For a complete list of Florida's sports icons CLICK ME!
Should Tebow be on this short list of Florida's sports icons? What about Emmitt Smith, the NFL's all-time leading rusher? How about Roy Jones, Jr., arguably the best pound-for-pound boxer of all time? How about Michelle Akers, one of the greatest U.S. soccer players of all time? What about tennis icon Chris Evert? What about Ray Lewis, Michael Irvin or Deion Sanders? Swimmer Dara Torres makes a strong case as well. From the basketball court, Florida can boast Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady and Amare Stoudimare, to name a few off the top of my head. Affirmed, a Florida-bred, was the last horse to win the Triple Crown.
It should be noted that Florida is one of only two states represented by an all-football Mount Rushmore. Mississippi, another talent-rich state, boasts Jerry Rice, Brett Favre, Walter Payton and Archie Manning.
If you want to check out all 52 Mount Rushmores of Sports, then scroll through the index on the feature's main page (LINK LISTED ABOVE.) If you want to vote on the five best Mount Rushmores of Sports then CLICK ME!
Who makes your Florida Mount Rushmore of Sports? At the rate he's going, does UF athletics director Jeremy Foley ever enter the conversation? I hear you laughing but he has turned an underachieving athletics department into arguably the nation's best. Florida has had the best collection of sports programs in the Southeastern Conference in all but one of his years as A.D. My Florida Mount Rushmore of Sports would be Don Shula, Chris Evert, Roy Jones Jr. and Emmitt Smith.
I know I'm biased, but I have long since believed Alabama (my home state) has produced the most concentrated collection of sports icons in the nation. ESPN's Mount Rushmore of Sports feature only bolsters that argument, I think. I've got to disagree with Alabama's Mount Rushmore, though. I'll take Willie Mays and Hank Aaron, of course. They're arguably the two greatest baseball players in the history of the game. Bo Jackson is a keeper, too. He's the greatest athlete that ever was. I'll gladly replace Bear Bryant (born in Arkansas), however, with a few more deserving Alabama natives: Satchel Paige, Mia Hamm, Jesse Owens, Joe Louis, Willie McCovey or John Stallworth.